Science in Bamfield

I’ve been in Bamfield on Vancouver Island for the last month or so. I am doing research as a directed studies student at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Center. I came here last year and took a Marine Invertebrate Zoology course and fell in love with Bamfield and the ocean. It’s a beautiful little town on the west coast of Vancouver island with a population of about 200 people. That number flucuates a lot in the summer as there are lots of researchers, students and fishermen.

Bamfield is on Vancouver Island, a 2 hour drive from Port Alberni on a logging road. It is South of Tofino and Ucluelet, separated from them by a large inlet containing the Broken and Deer island groups.
The West Coast Trail runs South from Bamfield to Port Renfrew.

Bamfield Marine Sciences Center as seen from the Bamfield Inlet

My directed studies (a research project for university credits) is supervised by Kat Anderson. Kat is a PhD student in the Harley lab at UBC Vancouver researching ocean acidification. Basically as we put more carbon dioxide into the air the ocean absorbs it and becomes more acidic. She is doing researching the consequences of this acidification. You can read about her research here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/07/16/bc-ocean-acidification.html . We got to hang out in the field with a CBC crew for the morning while Kat did her interview with them.

For my directed studies I am researching biotic effects on tide pool chemistry. A tide pool is isolated from the ocean at low tides and experiences large fluctuations in temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide and other chemical factors. Tide pools are home to many different animals, plants and algae, all of which have the ability to impact the water chemistry in different ways. Plants and algae photosynthesize, using carbon dioxide and creating oxygen, animals use oxygen and create carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide decreases pH (increases acidity) and the temperature can affect the rate at which these processes occur. As you can see there is quite a bit affecting these chemical fluctuations.

A tide pool at Bluestone point near Bamfield

I was planning to do a lab and a field experiment. My field experiment would have involved natural outdoor tide pools containing either invertebrates, plants and algae, invertebrates plants and algae, or nothing. Unfortunately due to a lack of field assistants and time constraints I’ve had to stick to the lab portion. No awesome researcher life jacket tan for me! Instead I’ve created artificial tide pools in the lab.

Artificial tide pools

Each of the pools contains either Pisaster ochraceous (an ochre sea star), Chlorostoma funebralis (turban snail), Prionitis lanceolata (bleach weed), or nothing. I’m measuring dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature and salinity over a 5 hour time period in both light and in the dark.

Pisaster ochraceous, the ochre sea star. A very common intertidal invertebrate on the west coast.

Chlorostoma funebralis, the turban snail. You’ll often find their shells inhabited by hermit crabs.

Prionitis lanceolata aka bleach weed gives off a distinctive bleachy scent as a defense mechanism
Photo from: http://www.mbari.org/staff/conn/botany/reds/Aliceweb/index.html

My second lab experiment is outside, so I don’t have to hide out in the basement (yay!), also to create natural temperature changes. In this experiment I am observing predator prey interactions between Pisaster ochraceous and Mytilus californianus (california mussel). I’ll be looking at how each species influences tide pool chemistry both individually and when they are interacting.

I’ve got 40 pages of data and equations in Microsoft excel to analyze, and I’m just waiting on some seaweed to dry. I am so excited for my data to be all nicely organized into charts and tables, but in the meantime there is weighing and measuring to be done, to the laboratory!

It’s science time.

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2 thoughts on “Science in Bamfield

  1. Pingback: Bamfield Adventure! | 100 Years of Knowledge

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